How to Start a Conversation about Jesus or the Gospel

Jesus told us to preach the gospel to all (Mark 16:15), that those who believe and are baptized will be saved (v16) and those who don’t believe will be damned/condemned. Heavy words. But in spite of the high stakes, many Christians are fearful of actually starting the conversation about the gospel – and so the fear of men stops them from doing what Jesus said here. A lot of times it is just because people don’t actually have a game plan of how to talk with people about the gospel or the things of God. Sometimes we skirt around the subject. Sometimes we say we are “waiting for an opportunity” when really there are a lot of opportunities that we could call “silver opportunities” every day – the problem is many of us only want “golden opportunities” and even then we may hesitate to take them due to fear and a lack of training.

Would you like to find yourself at ease starting conversations about the gospel? I’ve shared the gospel with thousands of people and I think there are a few considerations and methods we can start utilising which will make the whole thing a lot less intimidating. Like almost everyone I started my Christian life thinking that sharing the gospel was one of the scariest things ever. But I’ve found this kind of fear can be eliminated substantially – it was for me. But even if you can’t eliminate it completely, you can greatly reduce it to the point where your courage and confidence overcomes your fears whenever you need to.

What follows is one strategy. It is not the only one – but it is one that works. So why not give it a go and let me know how you find it?

1. Start by Showing Interest in the Other Person

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT)

This advice is not just something you’d learn from reading Dale Carnegie on “How to Win friends and influence People”. Its also in the Bible. Most people are more interested in themselves and their interests than anything else. So a great way to start conversations in general is to ASK QUESTIONS in a friendly way, showing an interest in them and what interests them. I will try to begin in this way in any setting except where I am directly accosting people unknown to myself on the street. It works well wherever the social setting is natural – for example – at a party, a sports game, buying or selling something, a taxi ride or a playdate for your children. You can skip this step or leave it til later if you are “going out witnessing” by which I mean you are going out with an intention of starting conversations about Jesus straight away.

Asking people and being genuinely interested in them and their answers helps build rapport and could be the start of a great relationship. It is important to be a good listener. This is what we need to do not only when sharing the gospel one-on-one with people, but in any kind of conversation.

Step 2 – Ask the person, “Do you have faith in God?”

No matter whether people have a religious belief or are atheists this question invites a person to identify where they are at and what they believe or do not believe. In Roman Catholic countries like the Philippines, almost everyone will answer “Yes” to this question. In some Asian countries, where Buddhism predominates, people may not even understand what you mean. So you might instead use a question like “What do you think is the Meaning of Life?” However, if you can ask this question – and it does work in the Western World whether people are atheists, agnostics, New Agers or into some kind of religion – Christian or otherwise.

You need to listen, and depending on people’s answers, you might need to modify your approach. For now I will explore the path where people say “Yes” to this question.

Step 3 – Ask the person, “In your spiritual journey thus far, have you come to the place where you believe God will let you enter heaven if – God forbid – you died tonight?”

This question is very confronting, and it is softened with the opening phrase. It is good to acknowledge that they are on a spiritual journey. Unless the person is a born again Christian who understands what the Blood of Christ has achieved for them, they will most likely answer “I’m not sure” to this question. The reason they are not sure is because they are not at all convinced that their performance has been good enough to enter heaven. It doesn’t really matter how hard you try – if you are trusting your own works as the fundamental basis for your acceptance with God, you will always feel you are not quite good enough.

By now you will be well and truly into a conversation about spiritual things and the gospel. But avoid the temptation to tell people off, or criticise them, or preach to them at this point. The secret I believe to being effective in our one-on-one communication skills is to ASK QUESTIONS.

There are different options forward here. You could start by saying that you used to worry about this until you came to understand that it wasn’t our personal performance that God us accepted with God, but I prefer a different approach which is to ask another question.

Step 4 – Ask the person, “Would you like to know what the Bible teaches about how you can know for sure that you will be accepted by God?”

Most people I believe will answer “Yes to this question” and then you really have stirred up interest and appetite and obtained permission for sharing the Good News of the Gospel. But suppose they are not interested? They may tell you why that is. Maybe they don’t believe in an afterlife, for example. The Holy Spirit might lead you down different paths at this time depending on the person and their response. You might ask:

“You told me you believe in God and have faith in God. In your understanding, what is God looking for from us? What does He expect?” You can direct the conversation from here to the laws of God, especially “Love your neighbour as yourself” which no reasonable person could say is a bad thing to do. The laws of God when explained can demolish a person’s spiritual complacency that everything will be fine if things just go on as they are.

But suppose they answer Yes. You can go on to Step 5.

Step 5. Tell them, “That’s great. Let me ask you, Why do you think Jesus died?”

This will reveal if they have any understanding of the purpose of the cross. They may not. No matter what they answer it is now your turn to provide an answer.

Step 6 – Explain the Blood Sacrifice

I like to tell people how God used to require animal sacrifices from His people when they sinned. This shows how expensive sin is, and also the need for an innocent one to die to cover the sins of a guilty one. From there I would point to how JESUS BECAME A BLOOD SACRIFICE to take away the guilt of our sin, and the curse that plagues us. I would explain how a good Judge cannot simply forgive someone who is guilty of a serious offence, and neither can God forgive us, except for the blood sacrifice of the blood of Jesus His own perfect Son.

Try to let that sink in for a minute. Ask them if they understand what you are saying?

You ought to tell people that Jesus did not stay dead – that He rose again, and conquered sin and death by rising again. Tell them that Jesus is King of the Kingdom of Heaven and that you can only enter that place by acknowledging Him and His sacrifice.

Then ask

Step 7 – Ask “Would you prefer to trust in the Blood Sacrifice of Christ or your own works for your acceptance with God?”

Hopefully if you have gotten to this stage they will answer that they want to put faith in the Blood Sacrifice of Christ. You will be surprised how many will say ‘yes’ to the Blood Sacrifice once it is put to them like this.

Step 8 – Call for Repentance

Tell them: To really come into God’s Kingdom we have to leave darkness behind and accept the help of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Ask, “Are you willing to leave spiritual darkness and everything you know is wrong, and put your trust in Jesus and His blood, committing your life to His care and authority?”

If they say “I’m not ready” it is time to back off a little and just ask them, and the Holy Spirit, what is holding them back. This is the time to listen again. If the issue can’t be resolved, don’t try to push them through into the New Birth anyway. It won’t happen at this time. But if they seem ready …

Step 9 – Explain what it looks like to follow Jesus and spend time with Him.

Here is where we really ought to explain something about the nature of the commitment God is asking for before pushing them into some kind of prayer to receive Christ. You might want to talk about the commitment to relate to other believers, or to listen for the voice of God by reading the Bible, and responding to God’s voice.

If they seem ready to make this commitment

Step 10 – Secure a commitment to hear more

Ask if they would prefer to come to Church with you, or whether they would prefer to meet another time to look with you at what the Bible teaches about this step. If they say, “No! I want to be a Christian right now” then they are ready. But most of the time we are far more eager to lead people in a sinner’s prayer than they are to actually follow Christ with all that entails – even in the initial phase. So best to exercise self-discipline and start looking for a SECOND MEETING about the gospel. If they don’t want that, they certainly are not ready to receive Christ as Lord.

I hope this guide is helpful for you. Remember that no matter how the conversation goes, it is wise to keep asking questions to find out where they are at while keeping control of the conversation. You don’t need to correct their answers. Just keep asking questions and that will lower people’s defenses if they have a receptive heart.

Please let me know if you implement some of these suggestions. I’d like to know how it goes for you. Andr remember as well, before you attempt to minister the gospel make sure you have prayed and sought the presence of God in your own life. You need God to be with you when you are speaking for Jesus.

God bless you and I hope to see your comments, questions or feedback below.


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